WASHINGTON TOWNSHIP, N.J. (CBS) – Engineering students at Washington Township High School have developed an inexpensive device that could save lives if a shooter was in their building.
It’s a light-weight flexible panel that covers the classroom door window so a shooter can’t see who is inside.
Superintendent Joseph Bollendorf asked the engineering students to come up with a way to block the windows after a school safety audit revealed having students huddled in a corner doesn’t address all visibility issues.
“A lot of these assailants have been kids that go to these schools so they know just because the lights are off and the doors locked, they know that they’re probably kids in those rooms,” explains Bollendorf.
Technology education teacher Rick Ambacher, a recent teacher of the year, started brainstorming with students about the best way to cover the door windows.
Their challenge was to create removable panels that are inexpensive, easy to install and light-weight because by code nothing can be screwed into the fire-rated wooden doors.
After more than a year of trial and error, they found that Velcro and a cardboard panel with a precision-cut hinge was the way to go.
“So, it’s really basic and what I would call an elegant design because of its simplicity,” says Ambacher.
The nearly completed design can be mass produced for the 800 or so classroom doors throughout the district at a low cost and with little man power.
“I just thought it was putting a piece of cardboard on a door but it turned out to be way more,” says engineering student Austin Milou.
Students used spreadsheets and computer design programs along the way to incorporate various methods of research and design that would prepare them for future careers.
“I feel like I’m making a difference,” says junior James Clark whose been working on the panels. “It’s the little things that will help, the vision panels obscure the vision and will lessen the chances of school shooters killing more people.”
Bollendorf calls the solution brilliant.
“By being able to obstruct their view maybe they keep on moving, maybe they pass that door, maybe that buys us additional time where we’re not having kids shot until help comes,” says Bollendorf.
Ambacher says he would be glad to share vision panel with other schools and see what their students can come up with to make it even better.
“Especially in light of recent events, it’s all the more important for something like this and I think the connection it makes with the kids is what really motivates and drives their learning,” says Ambacher.